Today’s Object of the Week is by far the largest we have featured in the series. On display in the Locomotion, in Shildon, this electric locomotive was in operation for six decades. It’s timely too, as we feature it on the anniversary of the electrification of the Shildon to Newport line.

The NER Class ES1 No.1 is one of two made for the North Eastern Railway.

This early electric locomotive was used in the Tyneside area for almost 60 years.

At the turn of the century, steam power was proving problematic in the tunnel of the Quayside branch in Newcastle.

Steam locomotives had to work incredibly hard to manage the gradients, producing unpleasant and potentially dangerous working conditions for the railway workers, both on the locomotives and on the ground.

As the tunnel was on a curve, it meant that crews could not see one end from the other, and the smoke added to the hazard.

The North Eastern Railway’s solution was to commission British engineering company Thomson-Houston to build two electric locomotives to operate these lines.

NER Class ES1 No.1 entered service in 1905, following the electrification of the Newcastle Quayside branch. This line was about a mile long and connected Newcastle Quayside to Trafalgar Yard.

The locomotive was used for hauling freight and gave the North Eastern Railway an opportunity to study freight operations powered by electricity.

During this early period of electric locomotion, lines throughout the North-East were also being electrified, the suburban passenger service in Newcastle going over to electric power on some lines from 1904.

On January 10, 1916 the entire Shildon to Newport line was electrified and larger versions of these early electric locomotives were hauling coal to docks, blast furnaces and iron works in the Stockton-Newport area.

NER Class ES1 No.1 continued serving the Tyneside area until February 1964 when it was withdrawn from service and entered preservation.

You can see this fascinating and unique locomotive on display at Locomotion in Shildon.

* If you have something you think could feature in Object of the Week, which appears in The Northern Echo each Saturday, contact Andrew White by email at or telephone 01325-505054.